heat wave Lucifer transforms Italy, and in particular the south of the country, into hell with temperatures constantly exceeding 40 degrees and oscillating on many occasions around 45. Although the episode affects with particular severity the regions of Sicily, Calabria and Puglia, in the far south, in the north, thermometers have also soared and several towns are on the highest level of alert these days.
In Syracuse, a coastal town on the eastern tip of Sicily, the mercury reached 48.8 degrees on Wednesday, according to measurements from the regional government’s Agrometeorological Information Service (SIAS). This extreme temperature still has to be validated in the next few days by the World Meteorological Organization, but if confirmed, it would mean a new heat record in Europe, since the highest mark officially recorded so far, of 48 degrees, took place in Athens in 1977. In 1999, 48.5 degrees was reached at an unofficial station in Catenanuova, also in Sicily, but was not confirmed.
Although the temperatures are undoubtedly exceptionally high, the exact values depend on the measurement methods used and their accuracy. For example, the electronic thermometers, exposed to the sun, of some Sicilian pharmacies reached 51 degrees. Army gauges recorded temperatures approaching 45 degrees at most in many parts of the island, particularly inland areas. In Sardinia peaks of 43.1 degrees were reached, in Calabria (Pointe de la Botte) 42 were reached; and in Campania, with its capital in Naples, and in Lazio, where Rome is located, it reached 40 degrees.
This Thursday, in total throughout the country there were 10 cities – two days ago there were only four – on red alert, the highest level, due to high temperatures, such as Palermo, Bari. Bologna or Rome, where the asphalt melts with the passage of pedestrians. For Friday, the Ministry of Health added five other localities to the list, including Florence and the north of Bolzano, already on the edge of the Alps. Thermometers should continue to rage throughout the weekend. The red alert is used in the ministry’s heat wave bulletin to mark urban centers in which there is a high risk for the whole population, and not only for the weakest sectors, such as the sick and the elderly, because the orange alert is used.
The Mediterranean on fire
The situation, with torrid values above 40 degrees, is repeated in much of the eastern Mediterranean, where countries such as Greece, North Macedonia, Albania, Algeria or Turkey are going through the worst heat waves of in recent years and are grazing the flames
The high temperatures come three days after the groundbreaking scientific report from the IPCC, the UN’s expert group on climate change, which warned that human action has already caused unprecedented alterations to the climate system, which, the scientist Italian specialist in climatology Antonello Pasini, of the National Research Council, is linked to extreme weather phenomena. Those produced “in the Mediterranean and in Italy are largely due to anthropogenic global warming and the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This global warming has produced significant changes in our latitudes, especially in air circulation. The equatorial-tropical circulation has extended northwards, so that African anticyclones, which once lingered above the Sahara Desert, can now penetrate the Mediterranean,” he explains. And he specifies: “Until a few decades ago, Mediterranean summers were dominated by the famous Azores anticyclone which, arriving from the Atlantic and entering the Mediterranean, acted as a stable cushion of air that protected us from disturbances. coming from northern Europe and the fierce African heat. Now, with this widening of the equatorial-tropical circulation, the African anticyclones have free passage, causing strong heat waves”.
This extreme and sustained temperature has aggravated the numerous fires that are spreading throughout southern Italy, particularly in Sicily, where the inhabitants of certain areas have had to be evacuated. In Calabria, where three people died as a result of the fire, the army mobilized to fight the flames. On Wednesday, across the country, there were more than 30 active outbreaks, including those in Sardinia, Basilicata, Campania, Lazio and Puglia.
Although many fires are caused, the agricultural association Coldiretti estimated that climate change has favored the tripling of fires compared to the average between 2008 and 2020. The association recalled that to the immediate destruction must be added the long-term damage, taking into account that it will take about 15 years to recover the entire forest ecosystem and all the traditional human activities, from timber harvesting to truffles and berries, mushrooms and to ecotourism.
In this summer marked by extreme events and scorching temperatures, the heat wave also had an impact on fruit prices, down 4.9% compared to the same period last year. Animals are also suffering on farms and cows produce up to 10% less milk than in cooler weather. In many places, the flames burned pastures and fodder used by livestock, and also burned fruits, vegetables, vineyards and olive groves.